FIVE QUESTIONS times two: Louisville

CB JOHNNY PATRICK

LOUISVILLE FOOTBALL IS a mere shadow of the program that demolished Oregon State 63-27 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in 2005 en route to a Gator Bowl appearance and BCS Orange Bowl honors a year later. BF.C recently caught up with Charlie Springer of UofLCardGame.com and, here in Part I, asked him five gotta-know-the-answers-to questions about the Cardinals football team.

Fans are recovering from three losing seasons after the departure of coach Bobby Petrino, now at Arkansas. Steve Kragthorpe, his successor, had a quick trigger management style, missing more talent from the team than he was able to recruit, setting the program back several years.

Former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong heads the reconstruction project. He’s focused on restoring confidence, building strength and conditioning, learning to win, and recruiting better talent. His potential 2011 recruiting class includes more four and five-star recruits than U of L has ever attracted.

 

1.

Name four players to watch - two on defense and two on offense - and why they are ones Oregon State fans should keep their eyes on.
OFFENSE

Running backs Bilal Powell and Victor Anderson (pictured left), averaging 7.7 and 5.2 yards per carry. Powell is the starter and the player who gets the ball in the red zone, having scored three touchdowns.

Anderson, the Big East freshman of the year two seasons ago, has yet to see the end zone. He is, however, among the nation’s top kickoff return men, averaging 50 yards per return.

BF.C NOTES:

  • Through the first two games, Powell and Anderson have combined to run for 344 yards and three scores and have also caught six passes for 37 yards. Powell is the team's leading rusher with 245 yards and three scores, while Anderson has registered 99 yards. The two are averaging a healthy 6.7 yards a carry this season.

  • Powell is showing that he is gonna be a special performer for the Cardinals, leading the team with 245 yards rushing, three touchdowns and a 7.7 rushing average. Through the fi rst two contests, Powell is averaging 122.5 yards a game, which ranks 14th in the country and second in the BIG EAST Conference.

  • Over the last 14 games played, tight end Cameron Graham has caught 33 passes for 405 yards and two scores. He has caught a pass in every game but two in his collegiate career and has registered three or more receptions in eight games

 

 

DEFENSE

Senior cornerback Johnny Patrick (picture right) is the fastest and hardest hitting defensive player, having recorded 10 solo tackles in the first two games.

A nice surprise has been senior defensive end Rodney Gnat who had four sacks in last week’s game, bringing his four year total to seven

BF.C NOTES:

  • Patrick has 31 career starts, the most on the team, including 15 straight.

  • The Cardinals have done a good job on third down this season of getting off the field. Louisville is allowing the opposition to convert on just 30 percent of their chances (8 of-27).

  • In the 23-13 win over Eastern Kentucky, Rodney “Big Pretty” Gnat was dominant on Saturday, recording 4.5 sacks, forced a fumble and recovered one. It was the most sacks by a Cardinal since Elvis Dumervil had six in a win over Kentucky in 2005. Gnat is now the BIG EAST’s leader in sacks with 4.5 and also ranks fourth nationally in that category.

 

 

2.

What are the strengths of the Louisville offense? What are its weaknesses?

STRENGTH OF THE OFFENSE: The running game, with Powell and Anderson, is the primary threat in offensive coordinator Mike Sanford’s spread offense, although less than impressive in managing only 408 yards rushing in the first two games.

Wide receiver Doug Beaumont, a senior who was the state’s No. 1 player in high school, caught his first touchdown pass in four seasons last week. Now that he’s ended the drought, Beaumont may be ready to redeem himself under a new coach and system.

WEAKNESS OF THE OFFENSE : Quarterback Adam Froman, a junior college transfer from Santa Rosa, Calif., is operating his third different offensive in as many years. While he has shown an ability to run, his scrambling abilities are limited.

He appears to be challenged in checking off possible receivers, often settling for his first choice, having thrown two interceptions (one costing Louisville six points) during the first two games. None of his receivers had caught a touchdown pass coming into the season.

 

BF.C NOTES:

  • The Cardinals’ offense was like Jeckyl and Hyde in the win over Eastern Kentucky. Louisville totaled 23 points, 290 yards of total offense, 100 yards rushing and 190 yards through the air in taking a 23-0 lead into the intermission. However, the second half was a totally different outcome, as Louisville was held without a point. Louisville recorded just 98 yards of total offense and threw an interception for a touchdown. The Cardinals recorded just 29 yards through the air and 69 yards on the ground.

  • The Cardinals are 0-3 in non-conference games on the road when they score 14 or fewer points in a game (lost 30-14 to Utah in 2009; 34-10 to Illinois in 2001 and 32-0 at Florida State in 2000).

  • Junior Victor Anderson has also developed an impressive reputation during his 22-game Louisville career as an expert at holding onto the football. The junior hasn’t lost a fumble in 291 career rushing attempts and 34 career receptions for a total of 325 career touches.

 

 

3.

What are the strengths of the Louisville defense? What are its weaknesses?

STRENGTH OF THE DEFENSE: If there is a strength, it is a new outlook under a coach who had one of the best defenses in the nation while at Florida.

WEAKNESS OF THE DEFENSE . Louisville lost five starters on the defensive line, which is undersized and depending on speed to make up the difference. Good luck on that one. One hope is that Jordan Campbell, a transfer linebacker from USC, will finally be cleared to play for the Oregon State encounter.

SPECIAL TEAMS. Louisville’s kicking game has improved by leaps and bounds over last season, which didn’t take much. Chris Philpott has nailed all three of his field goal attempts, and 69.7 yards per kickoff with four touchbacks. Punter Josh Bleser is averaging 40.2 yards per kick.

 

BF.C NOTES:

  • The Cardinals returned six starters from last year's defense.

  • Last week Louisville recorded nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss. The nine sacks for the Cardinals were one shy of tying the school mark of 10 set in 2000 against Grambling and North Carolina in 1996.

  • Junior placekicker Chris Philpott has connected on eight straight field goals, including a pair of 44-yarders. He tied his career-long with a 44-yard field goal in the loss to Kentucky on Sept. 4. On kickoffs, he blasted two into the endzone for touchbacks.

 

 

4.

Coming into this game where would you rank your team on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the team playing at peak performance) and why?

If the Louisville team that won a BCS Orange Bowl in 2007 is a 10, the current version would be a 2 or 3 on the ranking scale.

U of L football has been painful and boring to watch, with a mediocre quarterback and a team in the infancy stages of learning a new offensive system. Far less impressive at this stage than the one that managed a 4-8 won-lost record last season.

 

BF.C NOTES:

  • Due to injuries Louisville has already lost four players for the entire season.

  • The Cardinals have already played seven true freshman.

  • Louisville’s magic number is 24. Since the 2003 season, the Cardinals are 52-12 when scoring 24+ points. When scoring fewer than 24 points, Louisville is only 6-18.

 

5.

A prediction.

No predictions here. Just looking for growth.

 

BF.C NOTES:

  • The Cardinals have 27 seniors on its roster - tied for the second most in the nation.

  • Louisville is 11-7 on the road against non-conference foes in the last 10 years, but has dropped its last two matchups (30-14 at Utah last season and 31-27 against Kentucky).

  • U of L has already turned the ball over five times in two games, but has forced just two turnovers. Louisville is tied for 101st nationally in turnover margin.

 

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A big thanks to Charlie for taking the time out of his busy day to answer the questions.  Please head over to UofLCardGame.com for all things Louisville.

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